“Rock star” Chamisa wows Congress delegates

BULAWAYO – Among all the candidates at the 3rd MDC National Congress, Nelson Chamisa has clearly had the edge when it comes to that magical quality known as charisma. Pundits of every political stripe have commented on Chamisa's "rock-star quality."

After the massive crowd reaction that followed his introduction at both the Youth Assembly and Women’s Assembly congresses here on Thursday, even the most jaded political reporters admit that he is something rare and special.

When he stood up to address the Youth Assembly, Chamisa articulated a vision for the MDC that those in the audience quickly made their own.

“Some of you could be wondering why I am ditching the spokesman post and trying my luck as Organising Secretary,” Chamisa said in vernacular, in a speech laden with metaphor. “As spokesman, I was like a horn of a car with a defunct engine. I now need to be the engine of the party. It’s better to have a functional engine and a dead horn than to have a functional horn and a dead engine. That is why I want to be the Organising Secretary.”

The crowd roared in approval, with the whole Amphitheatre auditorium giving a loud standing ovation. “That is why I have come to you to ask for a cooking stick. Indeed the cooking stick to mould the party.” With that the thousands of youths packed into the auditorium went crazy. It was stunning display of affection, they whistled, shouted, removed their red T-shirts, torched their lighters and chanted his name. One female supporter took off her T-shirt.

Like Tsvangirai’s, Chamisa’s rhetoric was suffused with optimism. He purveyed not fear, but shining new possibilities. The crowd loved it.  But it was the cacophony that greeted him when he was introduced at the Women’s Assembly congress at Barbourfields Stadium that amazed onlookers.

Indeed Chamisa, a natural leader, could be the party’s next leader. The MDC Women gave him all the love, they ululated and waved their Zambias. “Chamisa, Chamisa,” they chanted.

Chamisa’s unique capacity to inspire should not be undervalued. Before the MDC picks its next president in five years time, voters should give great weight to what a candidate with charisma would bring to the table.

But doesn’t history caution against putting faith in a charismatic leader? True, some of history’s worst villains have been dangerous demagogues with a stranglehold on their public’s fears and aspirations, which they have abused for their own wicked, self-aggrandizing schemes.

Chamisa has done exceptionally well as the party spokesman and minister of ICT. He has amassed a string of degrees, with the latest being a Masters degree in International Relations. He already has degrees in Marketing and Political Science.

There is a sense that he is too young, but one has to look at the new breed of leaders in emerging democracies the world over. At the next congress, Chamisa will be 37. A new Constitution will have to determine if that age would be admissable for a presidential candidate. Some say Tendai Biti will have to square-off with Chamisa for the big prize at the next congress where Tsvangirai is expected to step down after serving 17 years as president. That will be a battle of the titans. But even if Chamisa loses that next MDC presidential vote, he has age on his side